24 Hours in SEATAC Airport

NOTE: These events are the prequel to my most recent post.

The discarded baggage of society’s unsettled wanderlust sits on a carousel in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on a rainy January afternoon, circumnavigating an abyss of modernity and subdued excitement. Crumpled leaflets litter the splotched patterned basement floor, where hundreds of men and women have gathered to collect their checked luggage. The diversity of humanity here is as evident in the throng of human beings, as it is in the items which they have left behind.

A soldier on the plane comes home to his family. He hopes for the last time.

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A professional looking young brunette woman in a slim-cut gray pinstripe business suit grabs a red polka-dotted suitcase. The side pocket is not completely closed, and out falls a black lace thong. The woman walks away, without realizing her loss.

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A young Arabian man with a smile that can reach the heavens reaches out for his brown duffel. The bright red Emirates ID tag gets stuck in between the slats of the carousel and snaps its cord. The man shrugs his shoulders, throws the bag over his arm and walks away while humming the theme to Star Wars.

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When we travel – to or from – as human beings, these little things that we have managed to gather together are the things that we leave behind.

So much life. And this is just the basement.

I am in SEATAC Airport, waiting for my flight on Monday evening, watching all of these events occur with awe and wonder. I have been in the airport for a total of ten hours, in vapid anticipation of my departure to Honolulu.

Humanity is truly amazing.

If any of these people are excited to be here, I can’t tell. Even the babes in their mothers’ firm grasps are crying out to leave this dreadful place.

That hits me square in the jaw. Sure, the weather sucks right now. But Seattle is my favorite city in the world. SeaTac airport is an airport. I am fascinated by airports.

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The first time I ever came to this airport – I was very little – my father taught me how escalators worked. I had never seen so many in one place before.

Sure, I knew the function of an escalator was to take people quickly on an inclined plain from one floor to another. But I never knew what they were really for. My father showed me that day.

“Follow me,” he said. I did so. Up one escalator. Down another. Up the same one that I had just gone up. Down. Up. Eventually it became a game of cat-and-mouse.

He did things that I did not know were possible to do on escalators – like walk while riding one to move faster, and go up an escalator that was meant to take people down.

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Life was so innocent then. Breaking conventions was an amazing feat of accomplishment for me. Non-conformity was something that my father had been engraining within me from the time of my birth. That is probably the single most attributable lesson that can be applied to my father’s legacy.

Of course, that was all before 9-11. So many things about this airport have changed since then.

Mainly, the extreme lack of enthusiasm around me. Fear has gripped this nation.

People these days are so damned scared when they come to airports. I can see the fear in all of their faces, I can smell the stench of it wafting behind them like a putrid perfume as they walk in front of me.

They are scared of the TSA primarily. They are also scared of Al Quaeda, they are scared of the IRA, they are scared of the TEA party, and abortion bombers.

The difference between I and them – they, the conglomerate of faceless figures in every airport across this once-great nation – is that I choose not to be afraid of my eternal travel companion that is my own shadow.
I choose to turn my fears toward the rational: tuberculosis, snakes, spiders, and heartbreak.

MONDAY –
“The train will be arriving shortly. Please stand clear of the doors.”

The same sentence is repeated in Chinese.

The train arrives.

I grab onto a pole and stand fast.

The train arrives at the S Gates with an anti-climactic termination. The doors hiss open, as if sarcastically mocking those certain travelers who seem to think that they are performing some great function in the cycle of life by simply performing their duties with the least amount of resistance and the maximum amount of reward.

A song by Cold Play plays overhead as I rise through the ranks of dull imaginations and into the departure terminal, where playful souls can once again be found running wild and free.

Standing at the bottom of the escalator is surreal. The yellow and sliver platforms of this carnival ride are illuminated underfoot by tiny LED lights in uniform sequence spaced apart approximately 12 inches from each other. The lights are reflected on space-age, almost mirror-like aluminum side panels. The whole atmosphere makes me feel more like I am ascending onto the bridge of the Starship Enterprise rather than into the main platform of the S Gate satellite terminal building. The monotone mechanical drone of the escalator’s operation completes the scene. The whole ride soothes my soul in a sort of cold, metallic hug.

It makes me feel like everything is going to be fine, but without any variation in its lifeless demeanor.

As I finally summit the escalator, I am brought out into a world of exactly the same.

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Directly in front of me as I step onto the platform is a duty free shop that sells designer accessories for outrageously steep prices. Everything in this airport has been marked up.

The only thing I want to purchase in this airport is a pair of earplugs so that I may focus on writing.
I put in the earplugs. They don’t work. I’m sure they’re great for the intrepid hypochondriac whilst riding an airplane, offering them some sort of placebo effect to soothe their restless souls. Sure, they reduce ambient noises a little, but the only thing they seem to do for the mechanical noises around me is magnify them like two cheap hearing aides. If I couldn’t think before, I most definitely can’t think while wearing them.

Damn. This bacon cheeseburger is AMAZING. The whole time I was in the desert, not once did a day go by when I did not crave an American meal. I felt guilty about it, though, because I knew that some of the people I was paling around with would never ever see a cheeseburger. Now I have one nestling in the bottom of my belly – it certainly hits the spot. I’m chuffed.

As I look out at the terminal where my plane will be arriving at in a few hours, the sudden realization of what I am doing hits me dead in the face: I am going to Hawaii. I am going to Hawaii. Wait, what? When did this happen?

A friend of mine that I met recently told me that if I had not been assaulted with so many terrible things recently – in other words, if I had been absolutely content with my life – then I would not have decided to see the world and leave the wretched confines of my house. So all of those bad, horrible things that have come down on top of me all at once – they must surely be a blessing in disguise. I hope so. I hope that I find what I’m looking for in Hawaii.

Right now, I am finally going to Hawaii. I am going to the beach. I am going to be in a place where happiness abounds, and the surf rolls in off the great Pacific Ocean. The most remote island chain in the world. I am hoping that this trip provides me with a cure to my insanity. A place of reflection, contemplation, solitude, and rejuvenation. A place to cast off my PTSD, my fears, my desires, my financial woes, my girl troubles, my bad dreams, my insomnia, the fogginess of my mind and of my geolocation, my bad health, my bad grades, my troubled soul. I place where I can learn the difference between the creations of my mind and the reality of my surroundings.

I guess it would be appropriate to say “Aloha.” I’ll be in the spirit soon enough, I hope.

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